Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gaming in a hospital room - what works, what doesn't

I missed my customary Monday blog post because I was in the hospital with a family member.  (The details aren't important, and he's home and fully recovered now.)  He was well enough yesterday to ask to play a game.  We had brought a few games with us for the visit, and the hospital also had a recreation room with a few titles that we could borrow.  We discovered a few things about gaming in the context of a hospital room that we'll remember for next time.

What worked:  Pass the Pigs (designer David Moffatt [or Moffitt] of the original title Pig Mania, now available as Pass the Pigs from publisher Winning Moves) is great for cheering up a hospital patient for a number of reasons.  It is terrifically portable.  It requires very little space on which to play and no set-up to speak of.  It requires little mental and physical effort to take one's turn.  It's good for a laugh.  The game can be interrupted easily without consequence.  It finishes quickly.  It lends itself easily to a re-match if "the pigs are against you" in the first round.

We also brought Uno, which, if we'd played it, I think might have worked almost as well.  There's a little more difficulty in sitting up in bed and holding a hand of cards, depending on the circumstances (like an IV or an awkward bed configuration).  But again, Uno doesn't require a lot of thought or effort, it's good for a laugh, and it interrupts easily.

What didn't work:  The game we borrowed from the hospital game room was Clue: Secrets and Spies (Hasbro).  We actually got this for Christmas last year and played it once as a family, to a decidedly lukewarm reception.  I had wanted to re-visit this title in the hope that perhaps it would gain some appeal with fresh eyes.

Unfortunately, we didn't really get the chance to properly evaluate Clue:S&S as a game.  The hospital room didn't have a proper game table, so we used the over-bed table (normally used for meals in bed).  The game board overlapped the edges of the table, so it was easily knocked.  Game set-up was a little "fiddly" for the context of a hospital room.  In this case, we were particularly hamstrung by the borrowed copy of the game that we had available.  Three significant game pieces were missing.  Two could be replaced with coins representing the missing pieces, but one - a black light for revealing secret text on cards - was indispensible.  The accommodations necessary to play this game under the given circumstances were too great, and we abandoned the effort.

I should make note of one other consideration for playing games in a hospital room.  Hospital-acquired infection is an ever-present risk, mitigated by simple but important hygienic precautions.  It is wise to ensure that hands are sanitized before handling game pieces.  Normally I don't think about who's been handling the pigs, cards, or dice in the game I'm playing, but medical professionals take a number of precautions to minimize the spread of germs in a place where sick people naturally congregate.  (I was particularly mindful of this issue with the borrowed game from the recreation room.)  The hospital had a hand sanitizer mounted outside the door to every room, and antimicrobial soap was available at every sink.  We found ourselves paying a little extra attention to keeping each other healthy and to keeping our own games uncontaminated so that we wouldn't bring home an extra souvenir from the hospital.

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